2018 is on the horizon, so it’s time to take a look at the biggest trends hotel designers will need to keep in mind for the new year. Hospitality is constantly adapting to new normals, and these trends aren't going away.
1. Biophilic Design
Incorporating nature into hospitality design is nothing new, but now there’s a name for it—and, thanks to several studies, plenty of data to encourage its growth.
Adding large plants, running water, wood and stone and other natural elements to a hotel’s lobby can have a quick return on investment. Bill Browning, founder of environmental consultancy group Terrapin Bright Green, and his team watched how people used six Manhattan hotel lobbies both with and without biophilic design. Those that incorporated nature into the design saw a 36-percent user rate—both active and passive—while conventional hotels saw 25 percent. What’s more, upon talking to the people using the lobby, Browning’s team found that some of the active users were not guests at all, but had come to use the hotels’ coffeeshops and other revenue-generating services. “The hotels increased their [revenue per available room] without selling more rooms,” he said.
If designers can’t bring the outdoors inside, then they can use large windows to let guests experience as much of the outdoors as possible—and they can often generate more revenue in doing so. Using Hotels.com, Browning and his team searched for prices at 100 hotels—50 urban properties and 50 resorts. Looking at equal room types during peak season non-holiday weekends, the team found that resort guestrooms with views over the water can charge between 16 percent and 18 percent more, while urban hotels with views of water or a major landmark (like the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower) can charge 12 percent more. "We reflect biophilia in pricing," he said.
For areas where incorporating live plants or running water is impractical, Browning suggested evoking nature with design. For example, watching a roaring fireplace can create a soothing effect—but what the eye actually sees is “a dance of repeating patterns” in the flames that trigger an “opiate” reaction in the brain. “When we can use fractals in fabric design, the brain responds in a great way,” Browning said.
2. Constant Connection
Nope, we aren’t giving up our electronic devices any time soon, and hotel designers are racing to make their properties as high-tech as possible across the segments. Rooms that keep their Gen-X and millennial guests connected and let them work (and play) the way they do at home will get the repeat business.
Brands now boast about how many charging spots their prototypes have. (Holiday Inn’s H4 prototype has at least five areas in each guestroom with multiple electric outlets and USB charging points.) This is great for guests, but it can be a pain for designers, who have to figure out how to maximize a room's space; incorporate lots of wires, ports, plugs and jacks; and keep the overall vibe of the space—all at the same time.
Necessity is the mother of invention, of course, and designers are finding clever ways to maintain a classical room’s look while hiding charging stations. Look for small flaps on traditional desks that can be lifted to reveal electrical outlets and USB ports. Some nightstands, meanwhile, hide the ports on the bed-facing side of the furniture so that they are only visible to someone actually in the bed. The old-school vibe is preserved, but modern guests can still plug in and get to work.
Other companies are letting the ports stand out. Legrand recently launched the Furniture power center by adorne, which incorporates electrical outlets and USB ports into the bed’s headboard or other in-room furniture pieces. The Crowne Plaza’s ultra-modern WorkLife guestrooms, meanwhile, have headboards with three electrical outlets and two USB ports on each side of the bed.
And let’s not forget the TVs. “Flat-screen TVs have propelled the design of smaller guestrooms forward because you no longer need three or even two feet of space to have a TV on a dresser,” Michael Suomi, principal and interior director of design at Stonehill Taylor, said. (This also lets hotels add more rooms on each floor, maximizing revenue.) Designers are now adding dedicated ports that let guests connect their own devices to the TV with or without wires, allowing them to watch their own content on the big screen. This is especially crucial for hotels catering to families—when Junior wants to watch cartoons, those cartoons had better be available right away.
3. Stripped-down Guestrooms
Especially in the select-service sector, minimalism is big. Marriott International’s Moxy, Hilton’s Tru and IHG’s nascent Avid brands all emphasize large communal spaces and small guestrooms with only the bare essentials. At the Pod Hotel in Washington, D.C., also designed by Stonehill Taylor, the guestroom’s desk doubles as a nightstand for the bed, and the closet has been replaced by a wall rack for hanging clothes. Luggage can be stored under the elevated bed or on shelves that are high enough for guests to walk beneath.
This design is typical of this segment: Don’t expect chests of drawers, sprawling sofas or even traditional closets in these rooms. But the guests—driven by the millennial demographic—don’t seem to mind working with the basics, and the segment’s growth is strong evidence of its demand.
The smaller, stripped-down guestrooms also appeal to hoteliers, who can save money on casegoods and on real estate, especially in urban markets. In cities, land cost in relation to room rate is quite high, Suomi said. But by shrinking a room’s square footage 30 percent to 50 percent, a hotel can add 30 percent to 50 percent more rooms to the overall count, and make 30 percent to 50 percent more each night. “The math works out well for big cities,” he said.